29. Telegram 662 From the Consulate in Jerusalem to the Department of State1 2

TWA Hijacking

From Zurhellen


  • Jerusalem 661
I am reporting results of demarche regarding swap of pilots for Israeli passengers from Jerusalem because I will not be back in Tel Aviv until tomorrow.
After telling me he was sure GOI reply on swap would be flat “no” Rafael went on in personal vein. He said that “as I knew” GOI had suggested to USG that message be sent from President Nixon To Atassi. Speaking entirely for himself, and saying he would have to deny having made statement if taxed with it, he thought USG should consider message from President to Atassi asking Syrians to release passengers. When Syrians reply that they have interest in MIG pilots, USG should say that it has certain influence in Israel and would use that influence to try to obtain release of MIG pilots once Syrians had released passengers. If Syrians would let passengers go on this basis, Rafael said, then USG could turn to GOI and he felt our influence would be effective.
I said that suppose Syrians simply answered USG to effect that as soon as USG gave assurance that GOI would release pilots, then SARG would release passengers, and USG then came to GOI, what would GOI say then? Rafael was categoric in saying that GOI would have to say no there would be no advance deal. [Page 2] Passengers and pilot cases could not be linked.
I am not sure that this is final answer of GOI, especially since we have not yet dealt with Mrs. Meir or exerted USG pressure. Neither am I sure, however, that such pressure would work. On other hand, it would seem highly probable that scheme suggested by Rafael (which we have previously suggested ourselves) would produce pilots in due course if Syrians would go along with our assurances that we would use our influence on Israel.
I did not tell Rafael that Secretary has sent letter to Attassi.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, AV 12 US. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Repeated to Tel Aviv.
  2. Consulate staff reported on a U.S. dimarche to Israel on the proposed pilot-hostage exchange in the matter of TWA Flight 840. Rafael said that Israel would reject an out-right swap, but suggested a way in which the United States could be seen to pressure Israel and bring about a conclusion without an advance deal.